Contextualizing Nurse Education in Israel: Sociodemography, Labor Market Dynamics and Professional Training

By Birenbaum-Carmeli, Daphna | Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession, April 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Contextualizing Nurse Education in Israel: Sociodemography, Labor Market Dynamics and Professional Training


Birenbaum-Carmeli, Daphna, Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession


Students' motivations for selecting nursing as a career vary. According to studies, the most prevalent motivations are the wish to work with and help people, an interest in science, job security and professional development opportunities (Kersten, Bakewell & Meyer, 1990; Kelly N, Shoemanker M & Steele T, 1996; Williams B, Wertenberger DH & GushuliakT, 1997). Some students also mentioned the influence of a relative who was a health professional (While A & Blackman C, 1998; Beck CT, 2000).This article explores students' demand for nursing from a different perspective. Rather than by posing direct questions, this article traces sociodemographic trends within the nursing student population to uncover ties between the demand structure for the profession and broader contextual aprocesses, primarily in the economic sphere.

Whereas all countries experience some demographic changes and labor market fluctuations, Israel has seen an exceptional influx of immigrants and subsequent economic 'ripples' over the last decade. The heightened intensity of these processes allows the observer to trace processes that probably evolve slowly and minutely in all countries, as they unfold on a wider scale in this rapidly changing setting. While obviously context-specific, the data analysis may also depict a more general link between the demand structure for nursing education and societal processes. In providing a concrete example, this study may be helpful for nursing leaders who need to accommodate contextual shifts within a diversity of training programs and policies.

Data from the University of Haifa's BSc program in nursing reveals that between the years 1995-2004, many of the new recruits came from two marginalized sectors within the Israeli system: Israeli Palestinians and immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU). Native Jewish Israelis comprised the rest of the student population in the program. The observed demographic changes in the participation of each group may be therefore be related to labor market competition in general, and particularly, in the healthcare field, and to the political escalation that took place in the Israeli arena over the period.

BACKGROUND

Israel is a country of seven million citizens. Roughly eighty percent are Jewish while the remaining twenty percent consists of Palestinians (Muslim, 17%; Christian, 2%) and Druze (1.5%).1 The minorities, though formally citizens of equal standing, have been subjected to various sorts of formal and informal discrimination and restrictions. In the realm of health and healthcare, though comparisons are complex and problematic (e.g., owing to high rates of consanguineous marriage in the Muslim community), one can still mention the Jewish/Palestinian gap of 3.1 vs. 7.7 infant mortality rates (CBS, 2006). In the sphere of education, Israeli Palestinians have had a higher student to teacher ratio, less equipped schools, insufficient vocational education and eventually lower achievements (Al-Haj, 1991; Smooha, 1989; Eisikovits, 1997). At the higher-education level, Palestinian students are under-represented (Guri-Rosenblit, 1999).2 Even after two decades of declared government effort to expand the education and occupational opportunities open to Israeli Palestinian youths, the latter constituted only 7.8% of all students in Israel in 2002/2003 (CBS, 2003).

In the labor market, certain fields have been almost entirely inaccessible to Palestinians. Most notable in this category are the technological professions, which are semi-officially blocked on grounds of state security. (Only 4.9% of Israeli students in engineering are Palestinian; the lowest participation rate in any field, other than agriculture; ibid.) The economic and occupational consequences of such restrictions are grave: about two thirds of Israeli Palestinians are unskilled workers (Adva Center, 2003) and unemployment among Israeli Palestinians continues to soar (Mesch & Stier, 1997). …

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